Minnesota Supreme Court Dismisses Trump Campaign's Petition to Separate Mail Ballots

Minnesota Supreme Court Dismisses Trump Campaign's Petition to Separate Mail Ballots
A voter leaves after filling out their ballot at the Beltrami County Administration building in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition from the Trump campaign and GOP Republican candidates requesting that the Minnesota state legislature separate all mailed ballots received after Election Day in the event of legal challenges to their validity.

The petition was filed on Oct. 28 (pdf) on behalf of the Trump campaign, the Senate Victory Fund, the House Republican Campaign Committee, and Ryan J. Beam, against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. It argued that segregation of ballots received after Election Day was necessary as “it could be impossible for a court to repair the election results tainted by illegally and untimely cast or mailed ballots if the ballots are not segregated.”
According to the ruling posted on Twitter by MPR News’s Brian Bakst, the petitioners on Nov. 2 had filed a request to voluntarily withdraw the petition. The Supreme Court’s Nov. 3 ruling therefore formalized the petition’s dismissal.

The petition, filed a week before Election Day, requested that the Minnesota Supreme Court issue an order directing Simon, a Democrat, to segregate all late-arriving mail-in ballots in order to “preserve the petitioners’ ability to challenge the legality of the secretary’s actions and to ensure the fairness and integrity of the election.”

The campaigns and other petitioners claim that Simon “unilaterally and without legal authority usurped the Minnesota Legislature’s—and Congress’s—power to establish rules regulating the manner and time of federal elections by deciding that he will not enforce Minnesota’s mail-in ballot deadlines.”

Under state election law, ballots must usually be received by election officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day, but Simon granted a week-long extension for the receipt of mail-in ballots amid mounting concerns over voter safety during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

The campaigns argued that Simon acted in a way that is unconstitutional and that the measure violates both federal and state law.

They asked that mail-in ballots be separated into three categories: those received before the regular deadline of 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, those received after the regular deadline but before 8 p.m. on Nov. 10, and those received after Nov. 10.

Simon’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

There is also a separate appeals court ruling that states that mail-in-ballots received in the state after Nov. 3 must be segregated from those received by Election Day.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 decision (pdf) on Oct. 29 that the state’s plan to include absentee ballots received seven days after Election Day in the vote count was an unconstitutional maneuver by Simon, the state’s top election official.

The three-judge panel in their ruling also stated that absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day but not received until Nov. 3 should be separated from other ballots in case they are later invalidated by a final court order.

The ruling doesn’t block Minnesota’s seven-day extension for counting absentee ballots outright but puts the grace period in danger. The case was sent back to a lower court for more proceedings.

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.